Local election day, October 22, 2017. | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

EU observers ‘deeply concerned’ about local elections in Kosovo Serb municipalities

According to the EU Election Observation Mission, Sunday’s local elections were calm, but the campaign environment in Serb-majority municipalities was marred by intimidation targeting non-Srpska Lista political entities.

Sunday’s local elections “were competitive and well-administered in most of Kosovo, while deep concerns persist over the democratic process in Kosovo Serb areas,” said Alojz Peterle, MEP and Chief Observer of the EU’s Election Observation Mission to Kosovo, at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Elections were genuinely competitive in Albanian-majority municipalities and the campaign environment was calm, allowing numerous candidates to freely communicate their messages to the voters… within many Kosovo Serb communities, the campaign environment was marred by intimidation targeting in particular non-Srpska Lista political entities… including pressure on individual candidates to withdraw,” he said.  

Peterle presented the election observation mission’s preliminary statement on Kosovo’s 2017 municipal elections, which highlights some “long-standing weaknesses” that affected an otherwise “well-organized and transparent” election day.

One of the positive assessments in the report is the swift action taken by the Elections Complaints and Appeals Panel, ECAP, to adjudicate a large number of complaints and appeals.

Some issues noted include low public confidence in the accuracy of the voter registration list, as it includes a high number of deceased persons, many instances of family voting, and the risk of systematic abuse of data entries for about a half a million voters abroad.

Peterle also said that Kosovo should improve transparency regarding campaign financing, as well as regulate sponsored TV programming, since unclear legal provisions enabled candidates to purchase a large amount of sponsored coverage from broadcasters.

The report notes, however, that major broadcast media provided fairly balanced elections coverage that presented a range of political platforms. Still, Peterle said, though broadcasters organized inclusive election debates in Albanian-majority municipalities, “they did not succeed for Kosovo-Serb majority municipalities.”

Sunday was the second time that the four northern Serb-majority municipalities participated in Kosovo municipal elections. The OSCE provided technical assistance to these municipalities, based on an agreement with the Kosovo Central Election Committee, CEC.

Overall, Peterle said, Sunday’s elections were better organized and more transparent than Kosovo’s 2013 local elections.

In 2013, some problems noted by the the EU Observation Mission included credible accusations of voter intimidation of public workers, a poorly-administered out-of-Kosovo voting process, and attacks on three polling centers in North Mitrovica.

In response to a question about differences between 2013 and 2017 in Serb-majority municipalities, Peterle said that according people who were present in the north during the last local elections, the differences are “obvious, important, and promising.”

“I think that the atmosphere was definitely much, much better. Of course, we reported about some critical elements, but in general the change we saw is significant… But I hope that our recommendations, which were so far only partially implemented, will be [implemented] much more in years to come,” he said.

The initial report on Kosovo’s 2017 local elections is based on the EU Election Observation Mission’s findings from over 100 observers who visited 466 polling stations across all 38 municipalities.
The final report will be presented in two to three months, after the runoff elections are held.

24/10/2017 - 12:32

24 October 2017 - 12:32

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